Written By Raquel Nixon, Contributing Writer
Apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat have made communication and connection more accessible than ever before. In just moments we can find old friends, discover new ones, explore information, and find countless sources of education. But for every friend there can also be a foe, and for every source of inspiration there is also a source of detriment.
Every day, we are bombarded with the highlights of people’s lives; edited and filtered but presented as authentic. Expectations and standards are at an all-time high. Especially with primarily visual platforms like Instagram and TikTok, which seem to prioritize and promote our society’s standard of “beauty”.
It is fair to say that beauty has always been prioritized to a certain extent in society for as long as we can remember. And while modern movements such as body positivity and romanticizing our differences are beginning to take us in a more inclusive direction, the increasing accessibility to the internet and effortless ability to edit and manipulate information has had detrimental effects on those who have grown to enjoy and depend on these social platforms.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental health disorder that has become increasingly prevalent in adolescents of age 12 and older (Bjornsson, 2010). We all feel insecure at times, but those with BDD become excessively preoccupied with minor or even non-existent flaws in their appearance. The disorder is primarily characterized by incessant and intrusive thoughts regarding their appearance and body image. Such thoughts may take hours out of their day and negatively impact their daily life and decision-making.
Face altering apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok provide certain filters that make subtle changes to a person’s face that fit them into a more standard measurement of “beauty”. While there are disputes as to whether the apps themselves are to blame for the increasing prevalence of Body Dysmorphia, it is impossible to say that they haven’t played a part in perpetuating unrealistic and even harmful beauty standards.
There have even been cases of people going to plastic surgeons using their “filtered images” from these social media apps as their desired result. This has led to a phenomenon called “Snapchat Dysmorphia” (Ramphul, 2018).
In response to disputes against the platforms being the issue, it is a fair argument to say in fact that the apps themselves are not to blame; but the way we use them.
While it’s unrealistic to expect adolescents to delete and distance themselves from such social platforms, it could be a great factor in helping them onto the path of self-acceptance and recognizing real beauty. In fact, there are many positive benefits to social media, if we can only use it to our advantage. Here are a few realistic and healthy ways to use social media to your advantage:
- Realize that most of what you see on social media isn’t real- Instagram photos especially tend to be staged and edited, even if they are presented to seem authentic.
- Refresh your feed- unfollow any account that harms your own views of yourself. The models and celebrities who always seem to look perfect, let them go. If it doesn’t inspire you or make you feel good, unfollow.
- Follow accounts that inspire you and make you feel good- Interact with those who make using the app feel worthwhile and positive.
- Steer clear from those who constantly present perfection- it’s not real. Seeing it constantly will put you in a mindset of comparison that will only eat away at your mental state.
- Take breaks- remember to take time away from social media and the internet. Make time for doing what you love, trying something new, or spending time with loved ones.
- Find other ways to connect- even if you are social distancing, there are still other ways to connect with people outside of social media. Give your mom a call, facetime your best friend, text someone you haven’t talked to in a while, start a group chat or online movie group marathon. These can all be helpful in maintaining connections with others.
The takeaway: make health your beauty standard. Take care of yourself, but not so that you strive to look like Instagram models. Focus on your mental health as much as your physical health. Seek support and help when you need it.
Think about it, when it comes to those you love most, it isn’t about what you see but what you feel when you close your eyes. Value people for who they are rather than what they look like and you will eventually attract people who do the same for you.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). (n.d.). Retrieved January 11, 2021, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd
Bjornsson, A., Didie, E., & Phillips, K. (2010). Body dysmorphic disorder. Retrieved January 11, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181960/
Ramphul, K., & Mejias, S. (2018, March 3). Is “Snapchat Dysmorphia” a Real Issue? Retrieved January 11, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5933578/